The beta JeOS operating system, which is built from the core of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, includes only the code that's needed to run the applications as virtualized or software appliances. The virtual applications will be able to run on Xen, VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors. JeOS is available today as a beta version, with a release version scheduled for distribution in a few weeks, Friedman said.
The beta version "is something that ISVs can start to use right now that will allow them to build these appliances," he said.
"We essentially want to be an arms dealer to [the ISVs]," Friedman said. "We want to be like the 'Intel Inside' of virtual appliances, to provide that SUSE underneath. These are some of the early steps we are taking."
Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC, said the software appliance and virtual appliance approach has previously been in use by companies such as rPath.
RPath, however, uses its own Linux, rather than a well-known distribution such as SUSE, which can be a problem for IT shops that don't want to have to support yet another operating system, Gillen said.
"In that context, it's got a value for the end user," he said of the SUSE version. ISVs will also like the SUSE program, he said, because "if you're an ISV, you want to limit the number of distributions that you support to save resources."
If you can offer a software appliance that runs on a hypervisor, it's a lot easier for the ISV," Gillen continued. "I think ISVs will embrace it once they get over fear of the idea."
The value for users, Gillen said, is that they can get a complete, ready-to-go application/operating system package that is already configured and set up for immediate use. By having the application vendor put such a package together and pre-test it, businesses can deploy it knowing that it will work properly.
"It gives you a single manageable entity that you can manage kind of like a black box," Gillen said. "In theory, it is easier for users."
On the other hand, he said, "this is a very immature marketplace" and some issues have not been fully resolved, including compatibility with other parts of the IT infrastructure. "There still are some questions about how the actual things will work for some customers."
Another issue, he said, is that by putting the ISV between the customer and the operating system vendor, the relationship between the vendor and the customer can be lessened. "Some OS vendors won't want to lose that relationship with their customers," he sid. "Your entire relationship will be with the application ISV."